27 January 2010 Seven-year-old Charlie Simpson of London originally planned to just enjoy a bicycle ride in the local park with his father. Instead, he made a five-mile trip that has raised more than £150,000 for children affected by this month’s Haitian earthquake, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has announced.
Charlie decided to raise funds for UNICEF’s response to the disaster by riding around his local park seven times last Sunday. His goal was to collect £500 in sponsorship pledges through a website, but as of today he has raised nearly £170,000 and counting.
“I want to do a sponsored bike ride for Haiti because there was a big earthquake and loads of people have lost their lives,” he writes on his website. “I want to make some money to buy food, water and tents for everyone in Haiti.”
UNICEF is providing clean water for 235,000 people at hospitals and other sites around the hardest-hit city, the capital, Port-au-Prince. The agency plans to scale up its water distribution significantly, aiming to reach half a million people with a consistent supply of water within the next few days.
The agency noted that providing clean water is particularly challenging as Haiti was already the Western Hemisphere’s poorest nation before the 7.0-magnitude quake struck on 12 January.
“You have to keep in mind that prior to the earthquake, only 50 per cent of the entire country had access to clean water in the first place,” said Silvia Gaya, who specializes in water, sanitation and hygiene for UNICEF. “Children in emergency situations like this one are more susceptible to illness and death from waterborne disease.”
Charlie’s efforts to help children an ocean away have captured the public imagination and spurred donations from far-flung places including Hong Kong and New Zealand.
“He really felt strongly about this and thought that something had to be done,” said his mother, Leonora Simpson. “It was great to see him so motivated. I am extremely proud of our Charlie.”
Calling his initiative “bold” and “innovative,” UNICEF United Kingdom Executive Director David Bull said that Charlie “not only understands what children his own age must be going through in Haiti, but is also wise enough to know that he can help them.”
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